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“Nothing spectacular, just scrambled eggs,” I say, rolling my eyes. My dad smiles and sinks back into his armchair, relieved.

“That would be wonderful.”

Once I’m in the kitchen, I get to work making eggs the way Emilia taught me. I remember how she cracked them softly because it takes less force than you think, and that way you’re less likely to get the gritty fragments of shell in your mixture. I can see the way she spun across the tiled floor of her kitchen to drop the shells in the food disposal and then back to whisk, season and pour the eggs, practically in one seamless movement. She could maintain a conversation with me while she was looking after the girls and cooking, and I still always felt as if I had her undivided attention.

I toast the bread until it is golden on both sides, then I spread the wafer-thin pieces of butter I’ve already prepared onto each slice. I dish the eggs onto the toast before garnishing each plate with a sprig of parsley and some pine nuts.

I walk into the living room holding the tray with the poppies and a plate of eggs, but my family isn’t in their usual spot by the TV. I turn around and they’re all sitting at the table tucked around the corner of the living room, the one we never use. The gingham tablecloth is out, as are four straw mats I recognize from when we lived in England. I put the beanbag tray down on the sofa and place the plate of food on the mat in front of Esme, then I bring the other three plates out.

“Please don’t make a big deal out of this,” I warn them as my parents start to make appreciative, over-the-top noises when they take a bite. “It’s scrambled eggs. Don’t make this weird.”

“This is delicious,” my dad mumbles, wiping some egg from the corner of his mouth.

“Very, very tasty,” my mom says.

“Good job, Grace!” Esme says overenthusiastically.

“Shut up, all of you,” I say, rolling my eyes.

After a moment, my parents start talking at the same time. Naturally, my dad concedes and my mom starts again.

“You know, Grace, I went into CVS the other week, and I noticed that this checkout girl’s wedding ring was very similar to yours. It was a small opal, set in a band of tiny diamonds,” she says, in mock surprise. “What are the chances!”

“She didn’t steal it, Mom,” I say, hoping beyond measure that she didn’t make a scene in the middle of the store in one of her velour ensembles.

“Yes, I’m aware of this now. The girl explained that her aunt had met some insane red-haired woman in the street, and that she had given all of her jewelry in the world away to her,” she says. “I knew that it had to be my insane, formerly red-haired woman as soon as she said it.”

“Thanks, Mom,” I say, rolling my eyes. “I’m glad that it’s gone to a good home.”

“Actually, she said that opal is bad luck and that she was only wearing it to scare off the nasty men, so I took her to buy another one,” my mom says, pleased with herself. “A diamond this time.”

“You shouldn’t have—”

She waves her hand in the air. “It’s all your money at this point anyway, as you so graciously reminded us last time you were here.”

I pull a face, and my dad shakes his head.

“Leave her alone, Olivia.”

“Leave her alone? I just got her ring back. A ring that she gave away to some cleaner like a mental person. I hope you didn’t tell Dylan,” she says, her eyes shooting up to the ceiling in despair. “Anyway, I have it if you want it.”

I watch as she pushes the eggs around her plate some more before putting the fork, loaded with toast and eggs, into her mouth. She chews slowly and then she swallows. She finishes the entire plate while my dad, Esme and I watch her in amazement.

“What?” she says, smiling to herself.

* * *

? ? ?

I’m nearly asleep when I hear a soft knock at the door. I assume it’s Esme and am already making room for her at the foot of my bed when my mom pushes open the door. She seems tiny, standing in the middle of my room in her bathrobe, lit only by the moonlight.

She waves her fingers and I move over so that she can sit on the edge of the bed next to me, even though there’s not enough space. She takes my hand and presses something cool into my palm. My wedding ring. I close my fingers around it.

“We need to talk,” she says, her chin set resolutely. “We should have had this conversation years ago, but I didn’t know how, and I would hate myself if we didn’t have it before you left again.”

“Mom. I’m twenty-three years old in one week. Please don’t let this be the moment for our first heart-to-heart,” I say, raising my eyebrows at her then immediately wincing because I forgot about the gash on my forehead.

“Just hear me out, Grace, and how did you become such a wiseass?” My mom takes off her glasses and cleans them with the hem of her bathrobe.

“Please,” I say quietly, but my mom’s jaw is already set, and the expression on her face is one I can’t identify. She opens her mouth to say something but then she stops. She doesn’t know anything, I tell myself, clutching the ring in my palm so tightly that the veins on the back of my hand become engorged.

“You outgrew us when you were still just a kid, and I’m not proud of how easily we let you go, or that I didn’t think about what happened to make you change like that. I was too busy thinking about myself.”

“I don’t want to talk about this,” I whisper, and I don’t know what my face is trying to tell her, but my mom has to look away from me.

“Grace, you drove yourself off a cliff on Christmas Eve. We have to talk about this, because if not now, when? Not when you’ve actually killed yourself.”

My mom’s breathing is rough and jagged, and that’s when I realize how hard this is for her, to admit that she failed at something too. After everything that’s happened, I think the discovery that I couldn’t even protect my parents will be the worst part of all, and I suddenly want to be out of this room, out of my own skin, under the water, flying off the mountain again, anywhere but here.

“We let you down,” my mom says, even her hands trembling under the weight of her words.

“I’m sorry I didn’t come home. I didn’t mean to outgrow you,” I say quietly.

“That’s what kids are supposed to do. Outgrow their parents,” she says, her voice wavering only at the end. “As I said, I’m not proud of how we dealt with it, but also I can only be who I am. Same goes for all of us.”

The veins on the backs of my hands have turned a deep blue.

“You know you can never go back,” my mom says then, but I just stare at the baby-pink nose of a cuddly toy koala peeking over the desk in the corner of my room.

“You just have to keep going forward instead.”

The koala stares back at me with dark, glassy eyes.

“I know that you’re scared, Grace, but you need to face up to what happened. To whatever he did to you,” she says quietly, and that’s when my heart really drops. I try to quell the shame that comes crashing over me. Suddenly, I’m right back where I was when I was fifteen, confused and alone, trying to make sense of what was happening to me.

My mom hovers above me, unsure of what to do next, perhaps waiting for me to finally tell her about it, for me to set the secret free in the way that everyone believes will instantly fix you, like taking a Tylenol for a fever, or compiling a list of pros and cons before you make a big life choice. Only I know that it doesn’t work like that. My secret is already out, trapped among the leaves of the palm trees that line the streets of Los Angeles, lying in the dirt at the bottom of the Santa Monica Mountains, and nobody feels any better for it. I look down at the blanket covering my legs, and all I feel is trapped, more entwined in Able’s web than ever.

“I can’t,” I whisper, and it’s when I see the disappointment register on her face, too, that I have to look away. My mom strokes my hair as the tears finally fall, slipping down my cheeks and soaking the collar of my T-shirt as my body racks with grief for everything I’ve ever had to break before it could break me first.

“Then you’re just going to have to forget it ever happened.”


The day of the Independent Film Awards, I wake in the middle of the night sweating, my pillow soaked. I dreamed Able was in the room with me while I slept, but I couldn’t move or call out because his hands were around my neck, pinning me down all over again. I reach for my painkillers before remembering I left them at Laurel’s. After that, I sob into my pillow until I can hardly breathe, while the sky lightens around me. I don’t know how to be normal, how to stop him from being able to reach me.

In the morning, I slip out early to go for a walk. I’m wearing one of my mother’s velour tracksuits because it fits perfectly over my knee brace, and it is nearly soaked through with rain by the time I get back to the house, holding a coffee in my crutch-free hand.